It was designed and constructed in 1898 by the late-nineteenth century by the French-Ottoman architect Alexander Vallaury as a luxury hotel and casino, named Prinkipo Palace, for the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, the European passenger train company that operated the Orient Express. It was sold in 1903, however, when Sultan Abdul Hamid II would not issue a permit for its operation, and subsequently bought by the wife of a prominent Greek banker, Eleni Zarifi, who donated it to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which operated it as an orphanage. On April 21, 1964, during heightened tension of the Cyprus issue, the orphanage was forcefully closed by the General Directorate of Foundations.In 1997, the property was seized by the Turkish state. Throughout its history, the orphanage has catered to the needs of 5,800 orphans.[
The building is considered to be the largest wooden building in Europe and the second largest in the world . The orphanage consists of 206 rooms, a kitchen, a library, a primary school and vocational workshops. It is situated on top of the Isa Tepesi, a mountain 206 meters high on the island of Büyükada.[
Since its closure half a century ago, the neglected building has deteriorated into a state of heavy disrepair.The building was severely damaged by a fire in 1980. The site was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch and is presently classified as “Rescue Needed” by Global Heritage Network. In April 2012, it was announced that the building would be restored over the next two years to house an international environmental institute. In 2012, the Turkish authorities returned the orphanage to the Greek community, the community complained that: “The state did not return the building to us in the same shape it was in when they [seized] it. The most recent studies have revealed beyond any doubt that millions of euros will be required [to restore the orphanage]. It is not possible for the 2000-strong Greek population to meet this figure,”. According to reports 65 million euros would be necessary to put the orphanage back on its feet.